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Email Content: Poultry Industry News, Comments and more by Simon M. Shane

Layers 2013-Part IV- Organic Egg Production

Dec 12, 2014

EGG-CITE has previously commented on Parts I through III of Layers 2013 prepared by the USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System. Part IV deals with organic egg production, a small but rapidly growing proportion of the U.S. industry.

The sample comprised 86 farms although it is not stated how many of the owners of eligible organic-egg units who were approached cooperated in the survey.  The other factor detracting from an appreciation of the data is that no detail is provided on the actual number of hens held by the respondents and conversely those that did not participate.

Seventy-four percent of the 85 farms housed fewer than 30,000 hens.  Six percent, or five farms in the survey held more than 100,000 hens.  It is known that the largest USDA Certified Organic egg production units hold between 750 and 1 million hens. Neither of the two largest operations participated. It is accepted in the industry that five percent of companies in the U.S. representing a disproportionate share of the actual number of hens contribute to the supply of organic eggs delivered to the market.

Part IV of Layers 2013 attempts to characterize the structure of the organic segment of U.S. egg production within the limitations of participation. Only 7.3 percent of farms but understandably a very small proportion of the total number of hens, were classified as independent with respect to ownership and marketing. About 75 percent of farms operated under a contract arrangement with a packer or marketing company.  As opposed to the pattern in the EU, farmer-owned (horizontal) cooperatives involved 11 percent of farms although hen numbers were not stated.   

Approximately 76 percent of farms had only one house operated for organic productions and six percent had six or more houses. These represented the few in-line units in production other than the largest operations which did not participate in the survey.  The capacity of houses ranged from 1,000 to 30,000 hens over 90 percent of the producers.  The fact that seven percent of houses held between 30,000 to 100,000 hens reflect the disparity in size between the family-farm/contractor producers and the in-line intensive operations most of which are equipped with aviary installations.

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